Trip Start Aug 26, 2011
Trip End Sep 13, 2011

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Flag of United States  , California
Monday, September 5, 2011

After leaving Hearst Castle, approximately 7 miles from San Simeon we stopped to view the gorgeous elephant seals at the Piedras Blachas Rookery. Here we saw hundreds of seals basking in the sun.  This time of year the seals stay on the beach to molt and pretty much do nothing but lie on the beach, some of the younger males joust, we got a picture of a couple doing that which was fun to watch. It was lovely watching them especially the ones coming out of the water trying to move about with all their blubber, very cute! The adult males have a large nose, this is a secondary sexual characteristic indicating physical and sexual maturity, well you know what they say about large noses!
After the elephant seals we made our way to Monterey via the Big Sur coastal drive which was stunning, the green of the Los Padres mountains on the right and the turquoise of the Pacific waters on the left, I now know why this drive is on the list of the world's top coastal drives. It's definitely up there with the Amalfi Coast which I did a few years ago. 
We had lunch at Big Sur which was a pretty spot and arrived in Monterey mid afternoon at our hotel The Clement, on the famous Cannery Row.
"Cannery Row is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light,a tone,a habit, a nostalgia, a dream" writes John Steinbeck in the opening sentence of his 1945 novel "Cannery Row". 
Walking through Cannery Row you can envision what life must have been like in Steinbeck's day when the canneries were in full swing and characters like Mack and the boys roamed the streets. The renowned Cannery Row stench is no more and the air has the refreshing tang of the sea. 
Cannery Row is now a tourist attraction with many of the hotels and restaurants located in former cannery buildings. Our gorgeous hotel "The Clement" used to be the old Del Mar Cannery and it overlooks Monterey Bay which is lovely with abundant sea life, birds, sea otters and an amazing kelp forest all within view. 
After reading some of the local history Monterey Bay was not always like this. The bay was on it's way to ruin, beginning with the extinction of the sea otters in the 1800's due to commercial hunting, then grey whales and abalone. The rise of the canneries not only overfished the sardine population but polluted the sea with their waste. After the collapse of the Monterey Canning industry, when asked what happened to the sardines, Dr. Ed Ricketts, a marine biologist replied "They're in cans!"
A fascinating figure who contributed to the revival of the bay was Julia Platt, a doctor of marine zoology and one of the first female neuroscientists. She was elected major of Pacific Grove (gorgeous town next to Monterey) on the 1st of April, 1931 at the age of 74. She made significant changes to the town but most importantly created two marine parks to protect the life of the coastline. This invention was a biological revolution and was an essential component to the recovery of the bay. 
Apparently it took many years for the sea otters to return and watching them swimming so close to the shore is amazing, we had dinner at a sea side restaurant and had fun otter spotting and yes we all ate seafood!

Next Stop: Monterey Aquarium and San Jose
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